STEPHENVILLE, Texas (AP) – Jury selection begins Monday in the trial of the man accused of fatally shooting a former Navy SEAL who was depicted in the Oscar-nominated film “American Sniper.”
More than 260 potential jurors are set to report to district court in the Texas town of Stephenville, southwest of Fort Worth. Former Marine Eddie Ray Routh is charged with capital murder in the deaths of 38-year-old Chris Kyle and Kyle’s friend, 35-year-old Chad Littlefield, two years ago at a luxury resort’s shooting range in a rural area about 25 miles (40 kilometres) southeast of Stephenville. The trial is expected to start Wednesday.
The film “American Sniper” is based on Kyle’s 2012 memoir. He left the Navy in 2009 after four tours in Iraq.
Judge Jason Cashon told potential jurors during a jury qualification process last week that they wouldn’t be dismissed just for seeing the movie or reading the book.
Instead of a typical Erath County jury pool of 175, about 800 jury summonses were sent out, district clerk Wanda Pringle has said. Several hundred people who weren’t eliminated due to exemptions or other factors took part in last week’s screening. The group was narrowed during that process after potential jurors were dismissed for a variety of reasons, including some who said pretrial publicity had already led them to a decision in the case.
Defence attorneys plan to pursue an insanity defence. Prosecutors won’t seek the death penalty, but will ask for a sentence of life in prison without parole if Routh’s convicted.
Family members have said Routh, 27, struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder after leaving the Marines in 2010. The small arms technician served in Iraq and was deployed to earthquake-ravaged Haiti. Kyle took Routh to the shooting range after Routh’s mother asked if he could help her son.
About two hours after they arrived at Rough Creek Lodge and Resort on Feb 2, 2013, an employee discovered the bodies of Kyle and Littlefield at the remote range.
In the meantime, authorities say Routh drove to his sister’s house in Kyle’s truck, telling her and her husband that he’d killed Kyle and Littlefield.
His sister told police that Routh “was out of his mind saying people were sucking his soul.”